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Biggest misconceptions about IPv6

By Max Burkhalter
February 25, 2011
In the wake of the last IPv4 address being issued, and many companies now scrambling to prepare for the switch to the new internet protocol, a recent Network World article examined the several of the biggest misconceptions regarding IPv6.

The first misconception is that the internet still has an abundance of IPv4 addresses available. While some still believe this to be true, the last of the IPv4 addresses were issued by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority in early February. The last five blocks of IPv4 address space, with nearly 16.7 million addresses, were assigned to five regional registries, which are expected to hand these out to carriers during 2011.

The second misconception is that “my business doesn’t need to adopt IPv6 yet.” The Network World article relayed a story involving a current IT executive at a major technology company, who stated his company hasn’t even approached the subject of preparing for the switch yet. This is troublesome, as many major internet officials have warned companies otherwise. John Curran, the president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, has told companies to support IPv6 on their public-facing web servers by January 1, 2012, or else, they will lose customers. Similarly, the Obama administration has mandated its federal agencies to upgrade by September 30, 2012. Experts in IPv4 deletion believe companies without a transition plan in place are now “too late.”

Another misconception is that a black market will soon be created for the remaining IPv4 addresses. Experts have stated this will not occur, as the ARIN has a legal process in place for exchanging assigned IPv4 addresses. Thus, if this process is not followed, the ARIN will revoke the transferred addresses. Likewise, the ARIN requires network operators to prove their plans for using their IPv4 addresses, which cut down on address hoarding.

Lastly, the myth that IPv6 is more secure than IPv4 is inaccurate. Those in favor of IPv6 cite its built-in support for IP Security, a standard that allows for authenticated and encryped communications between two end points. However, IPv4 supports IPsec as well, meaning IPv6’s built-in support isn’t that much of a benefit from the previous protocol.

"It's a myth that IPv6 is more secure than IPv4," says Qing Li, chief scientist for Blue Coat Systems. "IPv6 was designed to facilitate the implementation of IPsec better, it allows IPsec to operate better, but that's just a facility … It doesn't mean that IPv6 by itself is more secure."

As it stands, many experts believe the switch to IPv6 will occur in 2012. With n-to-the-128th-power of addresses available in the new protocol, another switch isn’t likely to occcur for some time.


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